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Can I Be Charged With Murder if I Caused a Person's Death in a Tennessee Car Accident?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Campbell County manslaughter defense attorney

Roadways can be dangerous places due to many factors, such as speeding vehicles, construction zones, and treacherous weather. There is a long list of injuries and damages that can occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Death is on that list, but in Tennessee, a person cannot be charged with first degree murder unless the victim's death was planned ahead of time. Instead, if someone is killed in a car accident, the person responsible may be charged with vehicular homicide. It is important to distinguish between the two charges, since the penalties are different. 

Murder Versus Vehicular Homicide

Tennessee law defines murder in different severities. The worst is First Degree Murder, which is intentionally killing another person. The punishment for this crime is either life in prison or the death penalty.

Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, is defined as recklessly killing another person while operating a motor vehicle. This charge can be the result of a driver operating a vehicle recklessly, while distracted, or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The crime is a Class B felony, unless there is proof that the victim’s conduct was negligent to his or her own safety. In these cases, the charge is a Class C felony. These charges can result in the following punishments:

  • Class B felony: 8-30 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $25,000.

  • Class C felony: 3-15 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.

What Happens After a Death in a Car Accident?

The first thing anyone should do after a car accident is alert the authorities, who will arrive on the scene to provide aid and assistance. Emergency medical personnel can begin treating injured parties immediately. Law enforcement personnel will gather all the evidence related to the accident and write an official accident report.

If a person is killed as a result of the crash, the person responsible for the accident may face either of the aforementioned felony charges, and they may suffer other consequences as well. The defendant’s driving record will obviously be affected, but his or her reputation in the community may also suffer harm. Though the law sees vehicular manslaughter and murder as separate crimes, the people in a defendant’s community might not see a difference.

A person who is found responsible for another person's death may also face a wrongful death lawsuit from the victim's loved ones. According to Tennessee law, the wrongful death of someone killed in a car accident is considered a “catastrophic loss,” and their family may be entitled to compensation of up to $1,000,000. 

Contact a Jacksboro, TN Criminal Defense Attorney

Vehicular homicide or manslaughter is not the same as murder, since it is not planned or intentional. Therefore, it carries different penalties, but they can still be severe, depending on the circumstances of the accident. If you or someone you know is facing vehicular manslaughter charges, the Law Offices of William F. Evans will carefully analyze all the evidence and build the best defense strategy to help you avoid a negative outcome. To schedule a free consultation with a Campbell County vehicular homicide defense lawyer, call 423-449-7980 today.


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